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Should Pope Francis celebrate the Reformation?


Almost 500 years ago, on Oct. 31, 1517, German monk Martin Luther strode up to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg and nailed his 95 Theses for debate. He was attacking widespread abuses in the Catholic Church: Simony, nepotism, usury, pluralism, and the sale of indulgences.

The anniversary celebrations have already begun. In his homily at the close of the week of prayer for Christian unity, Pope Francis echoed Pope St John Paul II’s famous Ash Wednesday Jubilee apology and acknowledged the sins of Catholics against other Christians. He also told Catholics to forgive the wrongs done to them. The pope said injuries that had happened in the past can’t be canceled, but the burden of old wounds should not continue to harm the relations between Catholics and other Christians.

Pope Francis has built bridges with Protestants in remarkable ways. His personal friendship with the late Anglican-style bishop Tony Palmer, and his video greeting to American pentecostal preachers followed by a personal meeting, raised eyebrows among many Catholics and raised a cry of dismay among the most vocal of conservative Catholics.

Pope Francis’ outreach to Protestants will go to new lengths when he travels to Lund in Sweden in October to attend a service marking the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation.

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